Forgetting Sarah Marshall 2008
A Fairytale Breakup
If you’re gonna get dumped, you might as well make it interesting.
By Brooke Metayer
It’s been three years since I was dumped while sitting in the passenger seat of an old Toyota truck going north on the 5 freeway. At this point, the details are hazy, but I do remember crying. Not in a cool smudged-mascara, romanticized Sylvia Plath-novel or Phoebe Bridgers-song way. In a very normal way. I thought maybe breakup tears would be different, but they felt no different than the ones I cried when my cat died or the ones that came up in the stock room of my old retail job when a customer called me incompetent for misreading the return policy.
I sat trapped in that stained fabric seat and watched tail lights swell into big blobs of red through the windshield each time he listed off one of my character flaws. I wiped my sweatshirt sleeves on my wet cheeks and interjected to say some stupid shit like, “I can change.” But once we ran out of things to say, we sat in uncomfortable silence until he reached for the volume knob to reveal the Red Hot Chili Peppers album that was still looping on Spotify. We sat like this for the next hour until our poorly timed trip came to an end in my driveway. He walked me to my door to say our last goodbyes and gave me a limp side hug before I went inside and sat myself down on the couch next to my roommates to catch the end of the Rose Ceremony on that week’s episode of The Bachelor. I fell into a melatonin-induced sleep by eleven o’clock and never saw him again.
Where was my dramatic tear-stricken kiss in the rain? The witty banter? The tension? I expected more excitement, more resistance or passion, and less uncomfortable silence and dad-rock music. It was confusing and awkward and anticlimactic and not at all like the breakup that I always imagined it would be. After a lifetime of poisoning my brain with rom-coms and various teen movie adaptations of Shakespeare plays, I expected something more entertaining, glamorous, and editorial. But apparently life isn’t like the movies (groundbreaking), and as much as we want to romanticize heartbreak, sometimes it’s just not that compelling.
So anyways, in honor of the anniversary of my boring breakup, I’d like to acknowledge some of my favorite fairytale breakups in recent cinematic history. Maybe they will even inspire your next breakup. Because if you’re gonna get dumped, you might as well make it interesting.
The Social Network
Concise, clever, and so, so satisfying. Jesse Eisenberg’s Mark Zuckerberg embodies the true essence of the worst guy you know, and it feels good to watch Rooney Mara eloquently insult him in under five minutes. Their staccato conversation is void of unnecessary, distracting melodrama. It is a stark scene but also a war cry for those who have dated self-proclaimed nerds.
“You’re going to go through life thinking girls don’t like you because you’re a nerd, and I want you to know from the bottom of my heart that that won’t be true. It will be because you are an asshole.”
Forgetting Sarah Marshall
Preface: this is absolutely my favorite rom-com and one of my favorite movies of all time. It would be nothing without the infamous naked breakup scene. Much like The Social Network, it sets the tone for the next 90 minutes and is equal parts brutal and funny. It is awkward enough to be one of the more “relatable” breakup scenes listed here, but maintains some level of Hollywood’s aspirational zest that can only be delivered by this particular brand of mid-2000’s celebrity.
“I’m not gonna put clothes on, I know what that means. If I put clothes on it’s over.”
500 Days of Summer
We meet Tom in his apartment as he smashes ceramic plates with a post-lobotomy stare on his face. As our favorite unreliable narrator, he gives a first-person narration of the moment Summer dumped him with such pragmatism that the whole interaction is over in just a couple minutes and she can still stomach pancakes afterward. I love this breakup because it has all the staples: miscommunication, an offbeat pop culture reference, and offers of friendship.
“You’re happy?” “You’re not?”
High School Musical 2
Troy and Gabriella had me in my bedazzled Sharpay costume on the edge of my seat at that HSM2 premiere party the summer before fifth grade. An innocent nighttime poolside meetup takes a turn when the music plays and Gabriella sings, “I gotta say what’s on my mind…” With stakes this low, you need that extra melodrama to make up for it.
“But what about me?”
La La Land
Mia and Sebastian know what is coming as they sit on a bench overlooking the Los Angeles skyline, not far from where they once floated up into the starry, domed ceilings of Griffith Observatory and first fell for each other. I can’t lie, it hurts watching them come to terms with a relationship strained by emotional and physical distance as a result of their respective ambitions, but I respect the lack of dramatic “I choose me” monologues. There is just quiet selfishness and acceptance. I like this scene because it lets us find peace in an unhappy ending… and I have a weird clairvoyant feeling that one day I’ll be dumped at Griffith Park too.
“I’m always going to love you too…”